Richie Hawtin unpacks his techno towers in New York’s Guggenheim Museum to unleash a live album that brings both his curdled acid and, judging by his track list, his dictionary.
It’s been over a decade since we’ve been treated to Hawtin’s most considered and psychedelic of projects. Expectations upon his most favoured alias are sky high. Opener ‘EXposed’ builds over 10 minutes of lysergic grooves, establishing the Ontario-based producer’s typical manifesto of minimalism. ‘EXtend’ emerges from the gloop with a higher register, dipping and gliding. Hawtin toys with a crescendo, making aggressive dashes for the teasing break.
‘EXtrude’ pushes us into a tougher space. His loops become harsher, growling with oblique acidic threat. ‘EXpire’ is an orgy of bleeps that progress, using ever-increasing pitch, into bizarre levels of tension, akin to a scene from a film ending in a farcical manner. The final wimpish break reflects the track name.
The theme of brooding, coiled 303 synthesized loops continues unabated. And this is the problem. We’ve been here before. Many times. While Plastikman is resolutely a psychedelic guise (his 1993 debut LP on Mute, ‘Sheet One’, came with fake LSD tabs as the liner notes) there’s very little progression or evolution in a sound that has lived with us for two decades.
Even as a card-carrying Plastikman fan it’s hard to get consistently excited by these seven snaking, exploratory ideas. Too long has elapsed to allow such a static rendition to stand as stimulating. If a master painter perfectly apes one of his classics then is this new canvas a masterpiece, too? ‘EX’ will neither enliven classicists nor win new fans. We need challenged by this artist, who normally thrives on doing exactly that.
Words: Matthew Bennett
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